Trading Twos



Just finished round one of a six week session of Buzzy’s Juke Joint Jam at the Freight and Salvage. Instruments included guitar, violin, bass, harmonica and vocalists. We will begin a new six week session on May 14. Songs we played included Stormy Monday, Statesboro Blues, Move it on Over, My Babe, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out, St. James Infirmary, I Hear You Knocking, Key to the Highway, Trouble in Mind, Deep River Blues and a bunch more. 

One idea that folks enjoyed and responded to was “trading twos,” in which we would pair up two players and each would solo for two bars, trading musical ideas back and forth. This was a wonderful exercise for several reasons: 1) It forces each player to come up with succinct musical phrases and 2) invites each player to “respond” to his/her partner. In jazz they call it “trading fours” — as each player takes a four bar solo and passes it on to the next player. For us novice blues jammers two bars seemed to work well and allowed each player to play three times in each 12 bar. 

In my Jamming the Blues classes I often talk about creating short musical phrases and think of soloing as a dialogue: between two people (From Jamming the Blues: A Guide to Soloing Over 12 bar Shuffles)

In this book we will learn the basic tools for soloing, which include scales and partial chords. We will play several 12 bar solos and analyze how they are built. Along the way you will learn all of the above techniques, but MOST importantly you will learn to create musical phrases. As the word suggests, a phrase is based on the language skills you already possess. If you think of your daily speech as a template for soloing you will bring life and vitality to your playing. 

    In our speech we have many different types of phrases: statements, questions(?), exclamations(!), pauses….These phrases will have content and inflection. For instance a whisper implies secrecy. It is barely audible and meant for only a few chosen ears. That soft inflection makes the listener perk up their ears, as if something important is being said. I am often telling many of my students to play louder, but what I’m really asking them to do is play with dynamics.  Play loud, then play soft; alter your attack and you will notice how much your audience is really listening…

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